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Colin Burrow: Literary Names, 22 November 2012

Literary Names: Personal Names in English Literature 
by Alastair Fowler.
Oxford, 283 pp., £19.99, September 2012, 978 0 19 959222 7
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... faith-giving kind of a name. Who wouldn’t prefer a government Bond under their mattress (we’re talking AAA British) to a petty clerk? Is your word your clerk? I don’t think so. Bond. It’s in the name. More than most literary phenomena, names in fiction seem very straightforward until you start to think about them. The simple question, ‘why does a ...


Alan Bennett: A Shameful Year, 8 January 2004

... a Word.Rejoice! We are ruled thru’ infinityBy this highly dysfunctional Trinity!10 January. In George Lyttelton’s Commonplace Book it’s recorded that Yeats told Peter Warlock that after being invited to hear ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ (a solitary man’s expression of longing for still greater solitude) sung by a thousand Boy Scouts he set up a ...

Change at MoMA

Hal Foster, 7 November 2019

... of its block. The American Folk Art Museum fell in its march west to Sixth Avenue, and only Saint Thomas Church has blocked its access east to Fifth.MoMA has added 47,000 square feet of exhibition space, a 30 per cent increase for a new total of 165,000 square feet in more than sixty galleries, at a cost of $450 million. Roughly half of this great sum came ...


Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... suppose I could have been a drunk.One used to see Bacon quite often, as he was a regular guest at George Melly’s across the road. The last time was in Paris when we were having supper at Brasserie Bofinger. Bacon and his party rose to leave, whereupon all the waiters gathered in the window to watch the great man depart – something I could never imagine ...

The Unpronounceable

Adam Mars-Jones: Garth Greenwell, 21 April 2016

What Belongs to You 
by Garth Greenwell.
Picador, 194 pp., £12.99, April 2016, 978 1 4472 8051 4
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... a diffused self-portrait onto four well-known cultural figures who had been his friends (Dylan Thomas, George Orwell, Eric Gill and John Middleton Murry), evoking them first separately and then in some slightly dizzying comparisons: I had seen Murry working, happily absorbed and with real skill, mending fences, sawing ...

Call Her Daisy-Ray

John Sturrock: Accents and Attitudes, 11 September 2003

Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent as Social Symbol 
by Lynda Mugglestone.
Oxford, 354 pp., £35, February 2003, 0 19 925061 8
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... and should be recognised as the phonetic standard. This idealised form eventually became known as RP, or Received Pronunciation, a term that dates back, I was surprised to find, to the 1860s, when the small number of those then professionally concerned with language were breaking free from the prescriptivism that had bedevilled any linguistics claiming to be ...

A Hologram for President

Eliot Weinberger, 30 August 2012

... the least worst choice from a pack of bizarre characters seemingly drawn from reality TV shows or Thomas Pynchon novels, but he’s not finding much love, even at his own coronation. Only 27 per cent of Americans think that he’s a ‘likeable’ guy. (Obama gets 61 per cent.) On television he projects a strange combination of self-satisfaction and an ...


Alan Bennett: My 2006, 4 January 2007

... who quarried it seems much more evocative than the actual wall itself. Instead we buy a couple of George III country chairs very reasonably in an antique shop before going round the much larger antique centre in Philip Webb’s parish hall. 6 January. Papers full of Charles Kennedy being, or having been, an alcoholic. I’d have thought Churchill came close ...

Rise and Fall of Radio Features

Marilyn Butler, 7 August 1980

Louis MacNeice in the BBC 
by Barbara Coulton.
Faber, 215 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 571 11537 3
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Best Radio Plays of 1979 
Eyre Methuen/BBC, 192 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 413 47130 6Show More
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... around certain pubs in Soho, Fitzrovia or the immediate environs of Broadcasting House. Dylan Thomas was much in use as an actor and a voice as well as a writer. A guest list for a Features party planned in 1951 included Henry Reed, Lawrence Durrell. Christopher Fry, C. Day Lewis, Lennox Berkeley, Michael Tippett, William Walton, Laurie Lee and Stevie ...

Philosophical Vinegar, Marvellous Salt

Malcolm Gaskill: Alchemical Pursuits, 15 July 2021

The Experimental Fire: Inventing English Alchemy, 1300-1700 
by Jennifer M. Rampling.
Chicago, 408 pp., £28, December 2020, 978 0 226 71070 9
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... epitome of the treasure of health’, which drew on the work of the 15th-century alchemists Thomas Norton and George Ripley, who in turn were indebted to the formulations of Ramon Llull, a 13th-century Majorcan polymath. The key to alchemy was deep reading, between texts and across the ages. Keynes’s scrabbling ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2005, 5 January 2006

... Queen Victoria in 1880. Nicest though are two Victorian or Edwardian toy butchers’ shops. They’re bigger and grander than the one Dad made for Gordon and me c.1940 but whereas these joints are nailed into place, Dad’s were all made to unhook so we could serve them to our imaginary customers at the counter. 25 February. A propos civil liberties the ...

Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones, 1 March 1984

Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... Masseys of Canada, who haunt his college and his stories, along with the ghosts of Queen Victoria, George V, Mackenzie King and the Devil himself). He noticed that Oxford was haunted by that eerie scholar, Montague Summers, who dressed like a Mediterranean priest but was always accompanied on his afternoon walks ‘either by a pallid youth dressed in ...

My Father’s War

Gillian Darley, 5 December 2013

... Regiment of Artillery on 10 February 1915, followed in his father’s footsteps. Born in 1859, George saw action in the Boer War. As a teenager I’d occasionally hazarded what the daily familiarity with death and fearful injury might do to the sensibilities of a shy boy just out of school, but even then I sensed that my father’s quiet life in the ...


Paul Muldoon: Hiberno-English Shenanigans, 1 July 1999

... positioning at the end of a sentence.* There’s a world of difference between the phrase ‘you’re altogether too thin-skinned’ and ‘you’re too thin-skinned altogether.’ The latter, Dolan notes, is spoken by Seumas in Act 1, line 87 of Sean O’Casey’s The Shadow of a Gunman. ‘The main intention of this ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland, 17 July 1980

by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... pen names and spoof attributions figure centrally in the genre’s history, from Scott, to George Eliot, to Kilgore Trout. According to the massive, nine-volume Dictionary of Anonymous and Pseudonymous English Literature there are, largely speaking, only three reasons for masked authorship, all prudential: ‘Generally the motive is some form of ...

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